Yesterday, January 21, 2009 may have been a watershed moment in the short timeline of American history. Many say it was. If they are right, and you are among the vast middle class, no matter how benevolent your employer or how prudent your personal economics, your future is in jeopardy.
The Supreme Court yesterday voted 5 to 4 to allow corporations the same right as you when it comes to contributing to election campaigns at all levels. You have the right to give as much as you wish– $5, $500 or $5,000. Corporations are now equal to you. They can give $5 or $500,000 or $50,000,000! Now you are both equals, thanks to the genius of Chief Justice Roberts and his band of reverse merry men.
For many years, Congress has tried to prohibit this. In a series of votes by the Supreme Court in the past, corporations have been regulated in the ways in which they could influence election campaigns. It was in exactly this period of the last century when Theodore Roosevelt began to change the way Americans looked at the influence of industrial moguls and how that influence was adversely affecting American lives.
You may feel that this Supreme Court is a bought-and-paid-for group of majority shills for Corporate America and the Republican Party. Many people who thought otherwise have assuredly changed their minds today. The word “radical departure” and “pro-active” court are being spread across the Internet like a sandstorm. Even Independents who only days ago voted a Republican into the Senate in Massachusetts are shaking their heads.
This is a decision that is either so esoteric that it simply does not compute for the average citizen or it is a simple matter of elections having consequences. Justices Roberts and Alito were considered at the time of their appointments to simply be ciphers for the Bush Administration. No one wants to think that the members of our highest court are “on the take.” We always want to believe in their objectivity. Of course the Dred Scott case, in which pro-slavery forces won, would obviate that conclusion.
Many have said already that this is the worst decision of the Supreme Court since the Dred Scott decision. And it could have such dire consequences—corporations literally taking over government completely by influencing enough key elections—that it may indeed turn out to be not only the worst decision of the Supreme Court but, in fact, the final decision of any consequence by the Supreme Court. If corporations, rather than controlling approximately half of government today, should suddenly control two-thirds or 80%…there would be no need for a Supreme Court. Neither Nazi Germany nor Fascist Spain needed a Supreme Court. All the lower courts were run by the Party. Decisions were a foregone conclusion from which no appeal was granted.
It may simply be a coincidence that those who voted for the concept of a large institution having the same rights as individuals are all Roman Catholics. Roberts, Catholic; Scalia, Catholic; Alito, Catholic; Thomas, Catholic; Kennedy, Catholic. It is interesting that the court systems of Fascist Italy and Spain were allied with the large corporate interests and the government. Shouldn’t the court systems of those two countries have been protecting their citizens instead of sending them to prison, to concentration camps or to firing squads? Can a corporation go to a firing squad or a concentration camp? Industry in those countries had iron control and total authority. No grievances there. No strikes.
We just came out of 8 years where American society had total control by one Party. (Actually 6 of those 8 years, but even in the last two, it controlled two-thirds of government, so that even in the last two years, the Democrats could only occasionally prevent certain things but not put forward significant proposals.
Here is what total control meant over the last 8 years. We’ll start with the last year. After 7 years where the Neoconservative Republicans had the House, the Senate, the Presidency and the Supreme Court, plus almost all the District Courts, in the last year, 2008, the economy which had been allowed to balloon up to obviously inflated dimensions, collapsed.
The cause was, we now know, basic failure to regulate the banking industry, the real estate mortgage industry and the stock market. In another post on this blog we have pointed out (The Man Who Caused the Recession) that Christopher Cox was sent to the SEC not to secure it but to de-regulate it by cutting staff and simply not investigating fraud. The result was the collapse of the stock market and the Madoff case, a $50 billion criminal enterprise which could have been uncovered with adequate staff.
When you have total control, as the Bush Administration did, you can call in your friends from ENRON, as Cheney did, and accept their language, word-for-word, as the new energy legislation. You can decide to start a war in Iraq and, in a secret meeting, even show the oil industry participants how you intend to carve up the natural resources of another country…using their vicious and unpopular dictator as an excuse.
When you have total control you can send a memo, as Gale Norton, Bush’s Secretary of the Interior did, to all park rangers telling them to cooperate in any way necessary to help companies that were newly allowed to drill, mine and cut timber in formerly off limits areas of the national parks belonging not to Gale Norton or Dick Cheney but to every American citizen. Many rangers retired or resigned. But the looting continued.
When you have total control of government you can go to Wall Street and work on a plan to promote the privatization of the Social Security system. You can work together with the investment companies, hire those who are your political friends and together create a national campaign to persuade Senior Citizens that it is in their best interests to take their money out of social insurance, Social Security, and put it into the stock market, with Charles Schwab or Goldman, Sachs, each of which would have made commissions in the tens of billions, with a “b.” Of course those pesky Democrats accused the Republicans of playing Russian roulette with America’s safety net. Three years later the Stock Market went from 14,000 to 7,000. “Chuck” Schwab still would have had his tens of billions in commissions, but the average American would have lost half of the meager Social Security stipend that they get now.
When you have total control, you can screen, hire and place every single U.S. Attorney in every position in the country, which Bush-Cheney, with complete control, did. Then when, in 2004, there are some difficult elections, you can tell those same U.S. Attorneys, who have the authority to start an investigation, indict…even if they don’t get a conviction…and publicize damaging information about that investigation…against Democratic political candidates. Now, it is true that some U.S. Attorneys may have scruples, but…when you have complete control of government…you can fire them.
How do you get complete control of government? How did George W. Bush do it? Well, he had a father who had been President. And he started out with a number of very rich Texans who set up a fund of $60 million before he had even decided to run. In other words, with enough money you can buy exposure and a message that you are, for example, a “compassionate conservative” even if, as it turned out, he was anything but compassionate. He was, in fact, as it turned out…a war monger. He decided arbitrarily to start an elective war, a war simply because he elected to do so. At a minimum, a quarter of a million people died and a country was destroyed and terrorists gained huge footholds around the world.
Another way to get complete control of government is to allow the largest corporations to find, hire and elect, through massive inputs of capital into their campaigns, all the Senators and Congress persons in government. They have the funds to do it. And now, thanks to this Supreme Court decision, they have the legal authority to do it.
That is why many average citizens are afraid. We only need look at health care reform to see what a dozen major health insurance firms and a handful of hospital associations and Right Wing think tanks (lobbying groups) like The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute have done with $400 million, a tiny fraction of the money available from big corporations for full-scale campaign contributions.
No matter how you may feel about the decision and the Court, the outcome of the decision is clear. The largest corporations in the country…and that would include among the largest, some of the most conservative…EXXON, GE, Halliburton, Bechtel, the tobacco and food companies, FEDEX, Cigna, Citibank, Goldman, Sachs, Walmart…they will all now be able to come right into your district and spend unlimited amounts of money to reward their friends and punish their enemies.
Major corporations will now be able to give a House member who promises to vote their way, all the money they need to become dominant in that market. The opponent, who for now is normally the Democrat, must rely on individual or perhaps union donations. That means based merely on previous expenditures…and those will double or triple for Republicans…an approximately 20 to 1 advantage for the Republican.
But it is more than that. The corporation has no restraints. It can spend 40 or 50 to 1 if it needs to win a drilling issue or if it wants to blow the top off a mountain to get at coal. Until this year, the mining companies polluted streams and rivers at will because of Bush cuts in enforcement. Again, all you need is total control of government and the courts.
And life will not stay the same as it is now. If past history and the current Neoconservative members of Congress are any indication, health care will not change, Social Security will be challenged. Medicare and Medicaid will be challenged. Military contractors will run wild and the country will go bankrupt.
Oil companies will drill where they want, just as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did, in the national parks and the 90,000 wells that decimated the Powder River Basin. Only this will be worse. The big oil companies will come in and spend a fortune on the governors and state legislature campaigns, telling the people of Wyoming and Colorado and Utah and Montana that we MUST do this and we MUST have this guy, some paid hack, in order to survive.
And there is now and never will develop an alternative media to tell the truth or, God forbid…alternative sources of energy. Too expensive, they will say. It will be drill, baby, drill. Greed will rule the country. It does now…that is true. But we need to write and enforce laws to stop it. The Supreme Court has now opened the door to unlimited funds with which corporations can prevent honest legislators from being elected. That is the opposite of what we need now.
These companies will continue to move headquarters to the Cayman Islands, and Bermuda. The oil execs will move to Dubai, just as Halliburton did. They will form corporations with the Arabs who will now have direct influence, huge influence, on our elections.
Doesn’t that make you feel safer? Knowing that a bunch of Texans who want to secede from the union anyway, now want to move the headquarters of their companies to Dubai? Does it make you happy that they will now be able to charge you $4.00 a gallon for gas and tell you that it’s necessary?
This is the future with unlimited campaign contributions from corporations. Democrats and Progressives and far-seeing people of both political parties must sound the alarm and make the sound of its ringing be heard in every state, county and community in this country. This is a fight for our Democracy.